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Texas probate: Making sure a spouse gets everything

The goal of estate planning is to ensure that everything a person owns goes to the person or people intended. Many people in Texas think about the assets that will pass through probate, but sometimes forget those assets that don't. Making sure that a spouse receives everything upon death will require looking at every asset owned, including those that are considered non-probate assets.

Non-probate assets include anything that is jointly owned, accounts or policies that have a designated beneficiary and assets that are in trust. If these assets are not properly titled, they may not go to the surviving spouse as intended. Examples of assets that require the designation of a beneficiary are retirement accounts and insurance policies. Jointly held assets can include anything from real estate to a checking account.

In order to ensure that these assets pass directly to a spouse, it may be necessary to change the titles or beneficiaries of these assets. In some cases, this can be as easy as adding a person to an account or as complicated as changing the beneficiary on a retirement account. The key is to make sure that all of the requirements and Texas state laws are met regardless of what the asset may be.

It should be noted that it does not matter what bequests are made in a will with regard to non-probate assets. Beneficiary designations and joint ownership will govern how these assets are passed upon death, no matter what a will may say. For this reason, it may be necessary to periodically review these assets as life changes occur to ensure they go to the intended party.

Source: nwitimes.com, ESTATE PLANNING: 'What do you mean I don't get it all? We were married', Christopher W. Yugo, Oct. 5, 2013

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